Jimmy Dean echoes in the popular imagination, with a strange magical resilience. He’ll never grow old, tired, worn out. He’s the opposite of an aging rockstar; no old, no fat, no quiet surrender to the obscurity of needing to work a blue collar job for the last few decades to just now reclaim his fans during the Reunion Tour. There’s something incredibly, immortal about the Dean health and youth and vigor.
Not that there’s any good reason to knock the Aging Rocker archetype. When done right the Aging Rocker, Dylan or the Stones (your opinion of whom to include or exclude on this list will no doubt vary) leads us into very different territory—not immortality, but perpetuity.
Like TIME or Superman, baseball or Rock n Roll itself, MAD has been unremitting these last 60 years. In many ways, it feels as if the Usual Gang of Idiots’ trademark “humor in a jugular vein” has only just now found a firm footing for a proper beginning. Maybe that fact alone explains the wit and acuity with which the Usual Gang find their way into the parody business.
It’s one thing to sync up the release of a “Jimmy Carter of Mars” parody poster with the release of Disney’s John Carter. It’s something else entirely to script and to draw a parody of Game of Thrones or Lost or Star Wars that points to the inherent weaknesses of an intellectual property that might become exposed over time.
Every hit has one or two distinct paths it can go by. Will it take three or maybe four or maybe (as with the Simpsons) 21 seasons before the depths of the storytelling model have been plumbed? Or will the hit incinerate in a blaze of glory, just two or three seasons like Rome or Deadwood? Will these hits be Jimmy Dean, or the Aging Rocker?
When MAD parodies a hit, it feels like an honest appreciation of property, its sensational strengths, and its inherent structural weaknesses. It’s something that might even help creators chart that happy medium of shows like X-Files or the West Wing or Seinfeld, where and end can be reached, not not for some time yet.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of MAD #521.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong online. Please consider a donation to support our work as an independent publisher devoted to the arts and humanities. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times where advertising no longer covers our costs. We need your help to keep PopMatters publishing. Thank you.